Minnesota lawmakers ought to move paid family and medical depart invoice

As a small business owner, I am constantly working to do the best for my employees and my company. One thing I know would help is if the state get the paid family and sick leave bills off. I am pleased that the House is holding hearings on this at the State Capitol.

I am a co-owner of Light Dark Landscape, where we design and install landscapes with an emphasis on sustainable solutions and species native to Minnesota. We’re a small company – my business partner and I work year round with four to five seasonal employees who come to us during our busy season. Like everyone else, our crew has to contend with many important life events – pregnancies, sick children, long-term injuries – that are both typical and particularly important times. The pandemic has put a magnifying glass on what is broken in the way life and work are intertwined and how we can remodel ourselves to become more resilient and forgiving (similar to good, sustainable landscaping) .

This is what the past looked like to us.

In 2020 my business partner welcomed her first child. I wanted to give her the family vacation she needed to heal and care for her new baby. I would want to do the same for each of my employees. We were able to set aside a little more money to pay my partner’s salary during her maternity leave, but only because we had enough time to plan her maternity leave and because she happened to have the only pregnancy at our company for several years. We cannot afford to cover paid maternity leave on a regular basis, especially since the funds we saved for her leave have been heavily taxed. These funds looked like “extra profit” that we left in the bank.

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Then came COVID-19.

In addition to my partner’s maternity leave, we had to deal with the pandemic. We take the health of our crew and our customers seriously and have made sure that all have masks and have been separated. When we had employees who felt sick, which happened throughout our season, we enforced a two-week quarantine period. This was easier for us to handle as the CARES federal law was a temporary solution for us to support our employees and keep our business going. Tax credits were provided so we could pay our employees full wages while they were quarantined at home to ensure the rest of us could reduce exposure to COVID-19 and get work moving since our season has a hard season planned stop is set by mother nature.

In the “after-times” these difficult decisions – between the health of our employees and our families and the viability of our company – cannot prevail as decisions that kill small business owners.

Julie Noren

There is no reason why the goals of the CARES Act – keeping business going while allowing for health and family time frames – only apply to pandemic times. Small businesses like me employ nearly half the workforce in the United States, but we can’t bear the cost of supporting families on our own. We need the scope and authority of the government to create a paid sickness and family vacation fund into which we and our employees will gradually contribute. Similar to unemployment insurance, such a plan would allow us to plan, save, and access financial assistance to employees and us business owners who have been temporarily made redundant for health and family needs.

Almost two-thirds of small business owners across the country support paid vacation policies. We see that, in addition to the reasons set out above, a publicly paid family vacation plan would give small businesses a boost in competition with large businesses for hiring and retention and would help small businesses save money that would otherwise be spent on hiring and training new employees Employees and, perhaps most importantly, helping small business owners and employees not have to choose between their health and livelihoods. To build a more sustainable American future, we need a government-sponsored, shared responsibility family vacation program to be part of the “new normal.”

For small businesses, our employees, and our entire state, it is time for our elected officials to finally adopt these important, sensible policies.

Julie Noren is a small business owner advocating for paid family vacation legislation.


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